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Jeune and Jolie labelled 'soft porn' at Cannes Film Festival

The posters stare down at you wherever you wander. A teenage girl, her long hair tousled, her naked form covered by white bed sheets, her lips pouting as a naked man stands before her.

The posters stare down at you wherever you wander along the Croisette. A teenage girl, her long hair tousled, her naked form covered by white bed sheets, her lips pouting as a naked man stands before her.
"Jeune et Jolie" (Young and Beautiful) screams the title of the film poster. "Un film de Francois Ozon".
The wonderful thing about the Cannes Film Festival is the variety of cinema from all over the world that is on show.
Filmmakers competing at this year's festival for the prestigious Palme d'Or hail from China, India, Afghanistan and Italy.
And then there are the French films. Which, in the time-honoured tradition of French cinema, will almost always include one movie about older men having their evil way with young, barely post-pubescent girls.
The French call it cinema. Most normal people would call it soft porn.
From the opening scene of French director, Francois Ozon's Jeune et Jolie, in which we meet the movie's protagonist, 17-year-old school student Isabelle flat on her back and sunbathing topless, we know we are in for yet another rollicking hour-and-a-half insight into the French male psyche.
The filmmaker — and I daresay numerous critics — will tell you the movie is a meditation on the growing pains of being a teenager; a moody, evocative reflection of the modern state of adolescence.
When in reality, it is a depressing, voyeuristic hour-and-a-half of soft porn masquerading as art house.
The film follows the story a school student who becomes a prostitute, servicing Paris's seemingly never ending stream of aged business men looking to reclaim their lost virility with a furtive session with a teenager in the back of their Peugeot or in some seedy two-star hotel room.
If you listen to the director, as I did at the press conference here, he will tell you he plucked his 23-year-old leading lady, Marine Vacth from a modelling agency (where she has modelled for Yves St Laurent, Chloe and Ralph Lauren) not because she was a great actress, but because she would look good naked.
"Marine didn't have much experience ... but she also was a model and that helped her for the nude scenes. She was quite free. Often actresses are ill at ease in those scenes," he told reporters.
"In her eyes I could see there was a whole inner world, a mystery, and that is exactly what I was looking for in my film."
If it was her eyes he was particularly interested in, one wonders why the camera spends most of the film lingering far further south.
French journalists covering the festival (many of them male) have applauded the film for its bold exploration of what it means to be a French teen. Journalists from other countries however have been left scratching their heads.
Ozon is no stranger to this kind of vaguely inappropriate film making. His previous Cannes efforts have included the equally sensual Swimming Pool, in which his camera lingers lasciviously over the semi-naked form of the then 23-year-old, Ludivigne Sagnier (in which Sagnier famously appears topless in over half of her scenes).
The French attitude to nudity ˜ relaxed as it is — is one thing, and perhaps Anglo-Saxon culture is occasionally too puritanical — but to pass off as deep social commentary a film that is clearly just an old man's sexual fantasy is frankly is laughable. Vive la France, indeed.

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